The Hyperion Cantos

I’m blown away. Still processing what I just read.

Two weeks after finishing “The Rise of Endymion”, the last novel in Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion” series, my mind still keeps wandering daily, thinking about the story I just finished. I haven’t had this feeling for ages. This feeling where a story is so captivating that it occupies your brain days, even weeks after you’ve finished it. Thinking about the story still gets me fascinated, excited, and deeply emotional.

Heads up: There are no spoilers ahead. Don’t worry!

Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion Cantos” is a space opera, a series of four books arranged as a pair of duologies. Simmons wrote it between 1989 and 1997. The first two books “Hyperion” and “The Fall of Hyperion” tell the tale of a group of pilgrims traveling to Hyperion, a remote planet where the Time Tombs, mysterious structures traveling back in time, have opened. Each pilgrim shares their own story how they got to travel to Hyperion and why they want to meet the Shrike, a dangerous killing machine from the future surrounded by a strange cult.

Cover of "Hyperion"

The “Hyperion Cantos” consistently ranks as the best of the best in science fiction. Open up any “The 30 Best Science Fiction Books” listicle and you’ll have a good chance that “Hyperion” is on that list. Each of the four books has its own character, and all of them are captivating in different ways.

The world-building in the series is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The planets, ecosystems, cultures, philosophy, religion, politics, and events Simmons describes throughout the four books are deeply fascinating, lively and rich.

The mystery around the Shrike and the Shrike cult is thrilling and could straight up serve as the inspiration for a banger of a death metal album.

The interwoven tales of the pilgrims are entertaining, distinct, full of suspense, swearing, and sadness. They’ll leave you unable to sleep from excitement and deeply moved by tragedy.

The second duology, “Endymion” and “The Rise of Endymion”, is set a few hundred years after the events of “Hyperion”, telling a related but independent tale of a new group of protagonists. Hyperion fans seem to be torn and polarized over the Endymion books. Some love it, some hate it. I’m in the camp of those who loved it. Despite its lengths (which were still a great example of top-notch world building) its a moving story of adventure, space fights, love, friendship, and tragedy. It’s a change of pace from the first books with a mostly new set of protagonists. Over the course of the two books I’ve grown to love the characters, their stories, personality, and relationships and found the books to be a satisfying conclusion of the mysteries set up by the first books in the series.

I only recently got into science fiction. Maybe two years ago. It probably started with Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary (soo good!). From there, I’ve read a mix of horror and science fiction until I arrived at Hyperion. It took me a large part of 2023 to read through the entire series — I’m a slow reader — and I think spending this much time in this universe is what led me to being so deeply invested and ultimately being moved so much once I finished the story. At this point it’s hard to imagine that anything could ever be as good as what I’ve just read. I’ll try some more science fiction next, Martha Wells’ “The Murderbot Diaries” sound like a fun and quick read, and James S.A. Corey’s “The Expanse” series might tickle the space opera craving Hyperion leaves behind.

There are other books I love that have left a lasting impression on me in the past, but it’s been ages since anything blew me away on such a profound and emotional level. Well done, M. Simmons. And thank you.